13 Hacks to Get Your Money’s Worth for Your Holiday Dinner

A classic Thanksgiving dinner can cost the average American family $50 — and this comes right as the holiday shopping season heats up, too.

In our ongoing quest to share affordable hacks,  we rounded up the best tricks for stretching that dinner, from simple swaps to more affordable ingredients.

Here’s how to make a single serving stretch out to two:

  1. Plan out your ingredients.

  2. Make an ingredient list based on the appetizers, meals, and dessert you plan to make. Note which ingredients overlap. By choosing recipes with overlapping ingredients you can buy in bulk and get your money’s worth.

    Next, highlight what you don’t have in stock. Maybe you’ll find a good substitution with something you already have at home, like brown rice in place of quinoa, onions for scallions, or sweet potatoes for russet potatoes.

  3. Eat before you grocery shop.

  4. Have a serving of fruit or veggies with the kids as a pre-grocery trip snack before heading out the door to avoid impulsive snack buys!

    If it’s going to be more than two hours before mealtime, add a small serving of protein, like Greek yogurt, bean dip, cheese or lean meat to your snack. Smart move – you just saved money at the checkout line!

  5. Scope out grocer sales and discount member warehouses.

  6. Discount member warehouses offer great deals. Choose their big bags of frozen fruit or veggies. Plus, they save you the time since they come rinsed and chopped.

    Before you hit the bargain store, check if your regular grocer is having a sale. It could be cheaper!

  7. Use frozen fruit and veggies.

  8. Put out frozen mango chunks as an appetizer or use berries as a dessert topping or added to baked scone mix. Be sure to thaw the night before or the morning of the get together. It’s low cost, tastes great, is easy, and nutritious!

    Frozen veggies like long string beans taste great stir-fried loaded up with garlic and low-sodium soy sauce. Your guests won’t know these greens were once frozen.

  9. Focus on in-season fruits and veggies.

  10. In-season fresh fruits and vegetables are also less costly at all grocers – so be sure to include them too! This varies on where you live in the country, so do a quick google search for your area to see what it’s season now.

  11. Take advantage of everyone’s love of cheese.

  12. Cheese prices can’t be beat. Buy some smoked Gouda and Brie and put it out with whole grain crackers as an appetizer! Fresh mozzarella served with bulk tomatoes is a healthy, low cost side dish.

  13. Go for bulk.

  14. Shop from the bulk bins whenever possible, especially for your whole grains and nuts.

    If you’re not time-strapped, consider buying dried beans and lentils rather than canned. You get so many more servings worth for the same amount of money.

    Bagged beans (cooked in a crock pot so you don’t burn them), lentils, grains like brown rice and whole grain pasta are low-cost foods that add nutritional value and bulk!

    See where you can add them in to stretch out meat dishes (like meatloaf, stews, or casseroles).  These also make healthy sides like bean or pasta salads, a lentil soup that fills up your family before the main course!

  15. Send your kids on the hunt for deals.

  16. Be creative about how you look for deals. Sign up for coupon apps like Coupon Sherpa or Honey, and assign your kids the task of going through the ingredient lists and finding store specials.

    Tell them they’ll get 50 percent of what you saved, plus a hug from Mom, aren’t you the best!

  17. Swap your protein.

  18. Chicken and beef can be expensive. Save money by buying less meat and bulking up dishes with other protein sources like nuts, beans, soy, lentils, and eggs. This adds nutritional variety and a depth of flavor!

  19. Repurpose old food.

  20. Save vegetable scraps and make a broth for a hearty winter soup.

    And don’t throw out that old bread or the crusts! Cut it up to make croutons, bake and mash it for breadcrumbs, or dry it out for stuffing or add it to casseroles.

  21. Use smaller dinnerware and serving utensils.

  22. Start with smaller plates. It helps with portion control, and it minimizes waste.

  23. Place your food wisely.

  24. Separate the dining area from the serving area. Place meal items that cost the least to make towards the front of the line – guests will add more of these items before realizing their plate is filling up!

  25. Date the leftovers.

  26. Don’t forget to put date on your holiday leftovers, so you eat them or freeze them!

Now you can put these savings towards holiday gifts.

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